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Heavy snow hits northern Japan, disrupting traffic

NsNs News Online Desk: Heavy snow hit northern Japan on Monday, disrupting air and railway traffic, with weather authorities warning of more blizzards, as well as high waves for the region and also some eastern parts of the country.

About 140 flights to and from New Chitose Airport, the main air gateway to the northern main island of Hokkaido, were canceled as of 9:30 a.m., while Hokkaido Railway Co suspended all train runs to and from JR Sapporo Station.

More than 970 train runs were suspended in Sapporo and other areas of Hokkaido as of 10:50 a.m., accounting for over 70 percent of the some 1,230 daily train services on average in the region.

More train services may be affected, with areas near Sapporo expected to receive up to 50 centimeters of snow by Tuesday morning. The Hokkaido capital had seen snowfall of 11 cm in 24 hours through 6 a.m. Monday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

A traffic accident involving several vehicles occurred on the Hakodate-Esashi Expressway in Hokuto, Hokkaido, with seven people rushed to the hospital. One of them is feared dead, local rescue workers said.

Heavy snow and wind are believed to have created extremely poor visibility conditions, or a whiteout, at the site. Many vehicles have been stranded on the expressway, they said.

In Tobetsu, Hokkaido, an accident involving seven vehicles, including a tanker, left two men with minor injuries, local police said.

Up to 70 cm of snow is projected to fall on the Hokuriku region on the Sea of Japan coast in 24 hours through 6 a.m. Tuesday, while the Kanto-Koshin region in eastern and central Japan expects to see maximum snowfall of 50 cm in the same period.

Hokkaido and the northeastern Tohoku region expect top wind speeds of 126 kilometers per hour, while ocean waves could reach up to 6 meters in height, in Hokkaido, Tohoku and Hokuriku regions, according to the agency.

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